Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).
You won't see snow and frost in California, but you will still find an excellent demonstration of the Christmas spirit, making it a nice place to spend the holidays. Impressive light displays can be seen at Disneyland, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento. Many cities offer ice skating, live music, entertainment, and Christmas treats.
L.A. Zoo Lights (canceled for 2020–2021 season)
L.A. Zoo Lights is the brightest and most impressive light show in Los Angeles, featuring thousands of LEDs and giant snowflakes, as well as lavish decorations on trees and alleys in almost every corner of the Zoo. Laser technology and 3-D projections combined with music make the Christmas Zoo experience magical. Animated displays feature animals like elephants and lizards. Visitors can see real reindeer and visit Santa in his cottage.
Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills (November–December, dates TBA)
In Woodland Hills in Los Angeles, Candy Cane Lane has become an annual phenomenon recognized as one of Southern California's best Christmas light displays. Houses on Lubao and Oxnard streets put on amazing holiday displays and decorations. Neighbors compete against each other for the most lavish and extravagant decorations. There are giant animatronics, Santa Claus, and plenty of cartoon characters. The decorations start to appear after Thanksgiving and stay until New Year's Eve.
Festival of Lights in Mission Inn, Riverside (November 27, 2020–January 6, 2021)
Every winter, the Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside holds the Festival of Lights featuring over 4 million LEDs that transform the Main Street and Mission Inn Hotel into the winter wonderland. Carolers, horse and carriage rides, and an ice rink contribute to a festive atmosphere. Kids like to ride a carousel or a Ferris wheel and stop by Gingerbread Shop.
Celebrations at Disneyland Resort (dates TBA)
Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, is truly special during the holiday season. The fireworks show sends vibrant colors in the sky while 500,000 lights illuminate the Disneyland alleys and streets. There is artificial snow creating a winter illusion. Don't miss the Christmas Fantasy Parade. It is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade (December 16–20, 2020)
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade showcases stunning decorations. Over 100 decorated vessels parade around the long 14-mile Newport Harbor. The event lasts five nights, and you can watch it from one of the numerous waterfront cafes to get the best experience.